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To divert his mind from the pain every step cost him,
Alexei began to think over and calculate his route. If
he did ten or twelve kilometres every day he would reach
his destination in three days, in four at most. "That's all
right! Now, what does ten or twelve kilometres mean?
A kilometre is two thousand paces; consequently, ten
kilometres are twenty thousand paces, but that's a lot,
considering that I will have to rest after every five
hundred or six hundred paces-----"
The day before, in order to ease the ^ going, Alexei
had set himself certain visible targets; a pine-tree, a tree
.stump, or a pitfall in the road, and strove towards each
one as a halting place. Now he reduced all (these to
figures—into a given number of paces. He decided to
make each stretch a thousand paces, that is, half a kilo-
metre, and to rest by the clock—not more than five
minutes. He calculated that, with difficulty, he could do
ten kilometres from sunrise to sunset.
But how hard the first thousand paces were! He tried
counting them in order to take his mind off the pain,
but after counting up to five hundred he lost count and
after that could think of nothing except the burning,
throbbing pain. Yet, he covered those thousand paces.
Lacking the strength to sit down, he dropped face down-
wards into the snow and greedily licked it, pressed his
forehead and burning temples to it and felt indescribable
pleasure at the icy touch.
He shuddered and looked at his watch. The second
hand was ticking off the last seconds of the allotted five
minutes. He watched the moving hand with fear, as if
expecting something terrible at the end of the round; but
as soon as it reached the figure sixty, he sprang to his
feet with a groan and pushed on farther.
By midday, when the semi-darkness of the forest
sparkled with the fine threads of sun-rays that pierced
the dense pine branches, and when the pungent smell of
resin and melting snow pervaded the forest, he had
covered only four of these stretches. At the end of the last
one he dropped down into the snow, not having the
strength to crawl to the trunk of a big birch-tree that was